Updated - Nov 13th, 2021
Life as a puppy parent isn’t easy. Puppies have a ton of energy and we humans can’t always keep up! You may find yourself running around after them all day keeping them entertained. If you don’t, your pup will find a way to entertain themselves, and that will probably mean munching on your furniture, clothes, or anything else they can get their chompers on – don’t forget, they’re teething, too!
Your pup will need a lot of different puppy toys – including chew toys – but some are better than others when it comes to keeping the interest of teething puppies (and giving us a break). Not surprisingly, many of the best dog toys and dog treats that keep puppies occupied for longer involve food-based rewards. These interactive dog toys are a great choice for keeping your fur baby busy, and they have the bonus of providing them with much-needed mental exercise.
Exercising a new puppy’s developing mind is just as important as exercising their growing body, and these types of toys can also ease separation anxiety and boredom. While food-based toys are the most common way to occupy your pup during playtime, there are also food-free options that can keep your pup entertained without adding extra calories to their diet.
This toy is called “classic” for good reason. The Kong Classic is one of the gold standards when it comes to reliable, durable dog chew toys that will occupy your pup. It’s made from durable rubber, which stands up to aggressive chewers, and it’s dishwasher safe. You can fill your Kong Classic with your pup’s kibble to make mealtimes into a game, and you can also use it to dispense treats.
The Kong Classic’s design is pawfectly suited to filling with peanut butter, yogurt, or anything else your fur baby enjoys, and if you want to occupy your pup for even longer, you can pop it in the freezer. For a food-free option, the Kong Classic also makes a good fetch toy for interactive play since it’s designed to bounce and move around erratically, which will keep your puppy on their toes!
Nina Ottosson puzzle toys offer food-based enrichment that will keep your fur baby engaged as they try to solve the puzzle and get a tasty reward! There are many different Nina Ottosson treat-dispensing puzzles that cover a range of difficulty levels. The Level 1 puzzles are ideal new toys for your pup to start with. Flexing that brain muscle will help your pup learn quickly and move up to higher difficulty levels.
Nina Ottosson puzzle toys are great for dispensing small treats and kibble – you can even use them to feed your pup their meals, which is a mind- and body-friendly choice if you have a fur baby that eats meals too quickly. All puzzles are BPA, PVA, and phthalate-free, and they are easy to clean with soap and water. The removable pieces are fairly large, but (as with any toy) you should supervise your pup during play to make sure they don’t go for any puzzle pieces after they are done with the treats – they could present a choking hazard.
For dog owners concerned about overfeeding their fur baby but still looking for food-based teething toys to occupy them, the Starmark Everlasting Treat Ball is a great option. This toy plays hard to get – the treat is firmly lodged in the plastic ball, which moves around and is designed so that it’s difficult for your pup to get a grip on it. Your fur baby will spend a lot of time trying, though! While trying to gnaw on the treat, they will only get part of it during each play session. The ridges on the treats are great for dental health maintenance as well.
The plastic ball is sturdy, is made from non-toxic materials, and is dishwasher safe. The Starmark Everlasting Treat Ball comes in two sizes – Medium and Large – so make sure to choose the right one for your dog’s mouth size. You can either fill it with the Starmark treats, with small treats or kibble, or pop it in the freezer filled with your pup’s favorite freezables like peanut butter, yogurt, or canned food.
Even though the Everlasting Treat Ball is designed to make it very difficult for the treat to come out, depending on your pup’s age and chewing style, some dogs can get at it faster than others, so if you’re using the large Starmark treats, you should always supervise your pup to make sure they don’t swallow it whole if they do happen to get it out.
Pet Pro Tip: When shopping for products for your puppy, make sure to also help protect your fur baby with best-in-class puppy insurance plans for accidents & illnesses.
For pet parents looking for a mentally stimulating option that doesn’t increase their pooch’s calorie count, the Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel puzzle toy is a fun option. This toy incorporates a puppy’s love for squeaky toys and creates a hide-and-seek challenge for them to solve – just stuff the plush tree trunk with the squirrels and let your pup loose on it!
It comes in several sizes – Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large – so you can choose the right one for your fur baby. This toy stimulates your dog’s natural hunting instincts and encourages their problem-solving abilities. The Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Plush Dog Toy is also several toys in one since the squeaky squirrels are removable and can be used to play a fun game of fetch.
If you’re looking for a food-free option and are willing to spend a bit more, this is a great purchase. The iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher may be pricey, but it’s worthwhile for dogs who love to play ball (and pup parents whose arms are tired). It is an indoor and outdoor toy and comes in two sizes – one for small dogs and one for large dogs. Both versions are adjustable and can launch the ball 10, 20, or 30 feet depending on the amount of space you have.
The iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher provides physical exercise for your pup, but it also stimulates them mentally as they have to learn how to initiate the ball launcher. With a little training, your pup will learn where to drop the ball and where to stand to get it to launch, and pup parents can just sit back and observe without breaking a sweat!
A fun food-based option for occupying your pup is to exercise their strongest sense – their nose! Regardless of age, all dogs love to sniff, and the Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat encourages your pup’s instinct for foraging. It is great for anxiety and boredom and it can also be used as a slow feeder at mealtimes for pups who eat their food too fast.
This snuffle mat contains different layers of durable fabric grass and petals to play hide-and-seek with your dog’s treats or kibble. It also comes with five different treat puzzles of varying difficulty levels that you can add on. The Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat has a non-slip bottom and is fully machine washable, and it is suited to all sizes, ages, and breeds.
The act of licking can be soothing for your pup – some studies have shown that licking even releases feel-good endorphins for your fur baby! The Mighty Paw Dog Lick Pad is a great food-based way to occupy your pup and can be used with a variety of different smearable treats, including peanut butter, yogurt, canned food, and purees.
The BPA-free, dishwasher-safe silicone mat has four different quadrants with different textures that serve specific purposes depending on your pup’s needs – Easy (for quick rewards), Fun (for boredom and slow feeding), Anxiety Relief (to calm your pup), and Distraction (to keep your fur baby busy).
The Mighty Paw Dog Lick Pad not only entertains and rewards your pup, but it can also help during potentially anxiety-inducing times like thunderstorms and grooming sessions. The suction cups on the bottom of the mat will hold it in place on the floor and on the tile in your bathroom, providing the perfect distraction for fur babies who hate bath time!
A fun, food-free toy option takes the classic squeaky toy and makes it more interactive to keep your pup’s interest for longer. The Hyper Pet Doggie Pal Interactive Plush Toy will keep your pup entertained with both motion and sound – it wiggles, vibrates, and even barks! (And, of course, it’s a squeaker.) The toy is battery-operated and motion sensor-activated. All you need to do is press the on/off button at the top, toss it, and watch your pup go wild.
The Hyper Pet Doggie Pal Interactive Plush Toy comes with batteries included and is designed to stop after a period of inactivity to conserve battery life. There are several styles of toys available, including a dog tail, unicorn, and crab, and they are suitable for pups of all ages and sizes.
For a simple yet effective way to keep your pup’s interest while stimulating their developing brains, the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball is a pawfect choice – and much better as a toy than a tennis ball. This ball can be used with small dry treats or kibble and is adjustable so that you can increase the difficulty level as your fur baby puts their problem-solving skills to the test.
You can use the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball as a slow feeder at mealtimes or as a way to ease anxiety and boredom, and the ball’s design encourages both mental and physical activity. It is easy to disassemble and clean, and it comes in two sizes – the 3-inch size for smaller dogs (10 to 40 pounds) and the 4-inch size for larger dogs (40 to 90 pounds). As always, pup parents should supervise their dog while using the toy, and it is not recommended for toy breeds or aggressive chewers.